Shane Jahnke was raised by a huge extended family called the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association (SSGA) and is very proud to carry on his family’s tradition of providing a president every decade or so starting with his grandpa’s brother-in-law in the ’40s, his great-uncle Ben in the ’50s, his grandpa in the ’60s, his dad in the ’80s, and his mom in 2003. Jahnke and his cousin Ben, are the fourth generation to carry on at Jahnke Ranches near Gouldtown, Sask.
Being a membership-based association Jahnke says the SSGA board will continue to build on the groundwork laid by Doug Gillespie to increase the membership and provide additional services to members. One strategy is to offer reduced youth membership fees to young ranchers that provide full voting privileges and mentorship opportunities for those who want to learn more about the beef industry and develop their leadership skills.
Applications for new mentorships are now being accepted.
Other initiatives undertaken during the past year to further strengthen SSGA’s leadership included a governance workshop for the board, the hiring of a consultant to renew the governance manual, the creation of a director’s code of ethics and the establishment of a process to evaluate the performance of board members and management.
Another priority area for the association is the five-year Species at Risk Partnership on Agricultural Lands announced in January. Environment Canada is providing $2.58 million to develop and deliver pilot projects for unique habitat conservation strategies in southwest Saskatchewan that meet the needs of both ranchers and species-at-risk. Among the possibilities are results-based conservation agreements, term-limited conservation easements, grass banking, habitat management, restoration agreements, and niche product marketing.
The government/industry-supported South of the Divide Conservation Action Program Inc., will be assisting with this project.
A few of the other files that SSGA board members will be getting involved with include livestock dealer regulations, the possible establishment of a producer assurance fund, consultations on proposed updates to the Provincial Lands Act, and discussions with Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) about further improvements to forage insurance.
Next up, however, is a review of the provincial fuel tax exemption program. Stock grower members carried a resolution calling for the SSGA to lobby to retain the program on the grounds that the fuel eligible for the exemption is used in primary production not highway driving.
The Quill Lakes watershed in east-central Saskatchewan is another growing concern, literally, with water draining in and no way out. Mile upon mile of once-productive cropland, pasture and hayland are now lake bottom, yet landowners are still required to pay taxes and lease fees on that land. Members asked the SSGA to lobby for a review of taxation and fee assessment policies on agricultural land taken out of production by large-scale flooding.
On the other end of the spectrum, members carried a resolution to lobby the province and SCIC to offer fire insurance coverage for grass.
Members also want the organization to press industry leadership regarding the need for research on carbon sequestration opportunities for grasslands and cattle grazing, as well as to hasten the adoption of e+v camera technology for determining quality and yield grades.
This year’s conference featured two respected speakers on animal handling: Dr. Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein from the Lethbridge Research Centre with a presentation on new findings related to the transport of cattle, and Dr. Temple Grandin, who also gave a special public presentation about autism the evening before the conference co-sponsored by the Autism Resource Centre.
Tying the discussions over the two days together, Jahnke said that while animal care and the environment are often hotly debated on social media today, neither are new topics to beef producers. Generations of beef producers have worked hard day in and day out for more than a century caring for their land and their animals because these are the foundation of their livelihoods. Research will continue to reveal new insights with time but animal care and environmental stewardship will always be top priorities for beef producers.
Jahnke said he is fortunate that his parents, uncles, aunts and the generations before them were able to take Jahnke Ranches to where it is today. His dad always told him that the cows had to work for them, not the other way around, so it’s now up to him and his cousin to continue to provide what the cows need to do their best work. They will do that by maintaining productivity of native grass pastures, calving on pasture, and using proven vaccination programs for the cows and calves before selling them directly off the ranch. Jahnke’s commitment to health care is further confirmed by his off-farm position as a representative for Vetouquinol Canada.
Visit skstockgrowers.com for more on the conference presentations.